On a late August night in 1892 — near midnight — Ella Lilly Van Evercooren was awaiting her husband, August, expected in Hannibal aboard night train from Denver. Staying with her at the Van Evercooren's home, located at 201 Willow St. (a block to the north of Market Street,) was her infant son, Charles, and two lady friends.
Quite unexpectedly while all were sleeping, the dining room door — on the Bates Street side of the house — was thrust open with one blow of a battering ram. Standing in the doorway, between a startled Mrs. Van Evercooren and her baby sleeping in his crib — was a masked intruder with a revolver in each hand saying: “I want what money and valuables there are in the house — quick!”
The intrusion was so shocking to the community as a whole, that on the next day the Hannibal Post offered extensive details of what transpired next. In its Sunday, Aug. 21, 1892 edition, the Quincy Daily Whig reprinted the story: “Mrs. Van Evercooren, with remarkable presence of mind, told the robber to “take what he could find.” The robber, who wore a mask, and had a goatee and mustache, turned his attention to the drawers in the washstand and bureau. On the washstand was a lady's hand satchel which was open, but in the side pocket of which was Mrs. Van Evercooren's watch. Running his hand into the mouth of the satchel and discovering nothing, the robber, with an oath, threw the satchel on the bed, and so the watch escaped his clutches.”
Miss Minnie Morris had been asleep on a cot in Mrs. Van Evercooren's bedroom. “She rushed by the desperado and gained the door and ran into the street,” the newspapers reported. “The robber, supposing Miss Morris was fleeing with the valuables of the house, gave chase — shooting his pistols and shouting to her to stop or he would kill her. But she still she kept on.”
The sound of screaming awoke 38-year-old Hermann C. Nerlich, who lived just a few doors to the west, at 209 Willow. “Hearing the racket (he came) to his front door; arriving there just as Miss Morris came running along the street calling for help and protection. He saw the robber following Miss Morris, shouting and shooting at the same time.
“And just about the same time, Mr. J.H. Franklin appeared at the door of his residence, almost opposite, and delivered both barrels of a shot gun at the robber. The burglar returned Mr. Franklin's fire and the bullets passed through the window by his side. Officer Pratt also appeared on the scene and exchanged several shots with the desperado, but no one was hurt on either side.”
Mr. Van Evercooren
German-born August Van Evercooren, and his father, Joseph, established a grocery business in Hannibal pre-1880. They operated out of three side-by-side buildings located on the north side of Market, between Dowling and Arch streets; one building housing groceries, one serving as a dry goods store, and the other as a drug store. Joseph Evercoore, a Civil War veteran, died in 1881, leaving his widow, Julia, who would live to be 85 years old, dying in 1904. August Van Evercooren died quite unexpectedly in 1901, at the age of about 42. He is buried at Holy Family Cemetery in Hannibal.
Mrs. Van Evercooren, nee Ellen A. Lilly, was born in 1871, the daughter of Benjamin F. Lilly.
Her husband, August Van Evercooren, died unexpectedly in 1901, and his oldest son, Charles Paul Van Evercooren, (a baby at the time of the 1892 robbery) managed — along with his mother — the family's grocery business. Paul, as he was known, died at the age of 26, on Oct. 27, 1918 of double pneumonia. His death came during Marion County's peak death month for the Spanish Influenza.
After Paul's death, youngest son Robert stepped up to manage the business, until his mother finally sold out.
Hermann C. Nerlich was born in Ohio, 1853, the son of Hermann G. Nerlich, who moved to Hannibal following the Civil War.While his father operated a grocery/feed store during the 1890s at 230-234 Market, Hermann C. Nerlich conducted a grocery store further west, at 254-256 Market. The younger Mr. Nerlich was married to Maria Anna Raible in 1875, the daughter of J.C. Raible, who operated a grocery store at 126-28 Market (which was profiled in this column on June 27, 2020.)
J.H. Franklin was highly regarded in Hannibal as an educated man, and a talented writer of poetry and prose. Born in Kentucky circa 1835, he moved to Missouri when he was but 19 years old, and spent the bulk of his manhood in Hannibal. For a dozen years he served the Hannibal Court of Common Pleas as its clerk, and for a dozen years after that he was in the insurance and real estate business.
After stepping down from his court post, at the end of 1889, he and his family – wife Ann M., and son John B. Franklin — moved to Hannibal's West Side, settling in at 118 Willow St. That's where they lived on the night the Van Evercooren house was burglarized.
John H. Franklin died July 16, 1902, at the age of 68, and is buried with his family at Hannibal's Holy Family Cemetery.
Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region's foundation. She can be reached atMontgomery.email@example.com. Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com.